Throwing My Loop…
By: Michael Johnson
It was in me when I came. This
desire to know what it is that helps in our time of need.
On the farm where I was raised when an animal suffered, I
suffered with them. The men said I was too soft. Now I
know they suffered with me. The only difference was I
showed mine. Later, I would wonder what it is that helps
not only the animal heal but what helps us heal? Not from
physical injury but rather the mental slings and arrows that
make their way inside all of us from time to time. Those
slights, those rejections, those times when we are swept
aside and brushed away, when someone says ‘you don’t have
it’ – what helps us restore our faith and self-esteem in
those times? I wondered.
After a few false starts – think failures – my mind and
that desire inside joined as one and I began to look for the
answer in earnest. There was never a worse student than me
early on – 13 F’s in row at the university. (Only record I
ever set.) Then the transformation came brought on by
caring souls at the university who extended their hands to
me – me, the least of these - and showed me a better way.
Each professor who helped me was different in their own way
of course, but an old Jewish proverb explains how that can
be… “Lamps are different but the light is the same.”
I kept looking for the answer.
I looked in lecture halls. The teachers were from
Columbia, Ohio State, Berkeley, Penn State, LSU, and Tulane
and Rice. I listened to their lectures, took notes, and
took tests…and I didn’t find it. I looked in
libraries and in the books inside. I looked in Freud and
Jung, Sandor Ferenzci, Rollo May, Martin Heidegger, George
Berkeley, Hume, Kant, Sartre, and Camus…and I didn’t find it.
When they put that cowl around my neck on graduation night,
I looked up to the sky. The fog was still there. That is
why I never took the title of ‘Dr.’ too seriously.
But to my credit I didn’t give up on the quest. I
kept looking and after years of searching, I found it. Not
all of it but enough to make my heart soar. It’s like
quicksilver, you know. You can get close to it - close
enough to reach out and almost touch it. You can see it but
only for a moment. Then it’s gone. But I’ve seen it.
I’ve seen it in men and women working with troubled
horses. I’ve seen it in some teachers working with a
certain child, and I’ve seen it in my wife. Like this…
“Can I bother you for a moment?” said the young woman
standing just outside the door.
“Sure you can,” said my wife. “That’s what I’m for.”
The young woman came in. Attractive. Well dressed.
She seated herself. Her hands were shaking. Tears spilled
over her eyelids and down her face. She spoke…
“I’m 33,” she said. “My husband was beating me. I
found the courage to leave. I took my two young children
and came here a few days ago. I need to earn my daily
bread. I have to graduate from this university and I’m
afraid. What if I fail? What if I can’t do it?” Silence.
(What do you do here? Freud, Jung? Some theory?
Medication? What helps? What heals?)
After a time, my wife spoke. “You’ve had a difficult
trial. Sometimes we have those. Yours was bad and some have
worse than yours. But I wouldn’t be worried if I were you.”
“You wouldn’t? asked the young woman.
“No, because any woman who is strong enough to get away
from a man who is beating her and take her two children to a
strange land to save them has more than enough strength and
courage to get a college degree. Do not be afraid and don’t
worry if you can or not. What is important right now is
that I know you can do it. Take comfort in that. Now your
journey begins. It won’t be easy but you can do it. We
will stay beside you every step of the way. When you fall
we will help you up. Come with me now and I will introduce
you to some strong women who have overcome. Wipe your eyes,
put your shoulders back, stand erect, get your head up.
Don’t look down. Put a smile on your face. We are going
out into the world to begin again. Come with me. We have
much to do.”
There it is. There it is. There it is. Found it! It
was never about theory. It was always about spreading hope
and encouragement and building self-esteem. Not false
flattery. Not artificial praise, but believing in another
before they believe in themselves. Humans, horses, working
stock dogs. Doesn’t matter. All mammals respond to the
-- Michael Johnson
Sharon and Rowdy